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“Believe the Hype--Leaves & Lizards is a fantastic, affordable and happy place” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Leaves and Lizards Arenal Volcano Cabin Retreat

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Leaves and Lizards Arenal Volcano Cabin Retreat
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500 meters south of Super Kiki, La Fortuna de San Carlos, Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica   |  
Hotel amenities
Walnut Creek, California
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
“Believe the Hype--Leaves & Lizards is a fantastic, affordable and happy place”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 10, 2013

The magic of Leaves and Lizards starts and ends with the AMAZING STAFF. The laid-back but attentive owners provide housing for most of the staff members on site. These houses dot the dirt road that runs through the property meaning the staff is always present and ridiculously responsive to guest needs. And yet they are always so happy and friendly! I have never been to a place where the staff is friendlier, happier and more eager to please. As a result, they take pride in everything they do from meal preparation, to serving as hike and horseback riding guides, to hosting the kids in the stables as they collect the eggs and milk the cows!

When we booked our trip to CR, we didn't use an agent and instead researched the locations we stayed on our own. Needless to say, our choice of Leaves and Lizards had a lot to do with the reviews on TripAdvisor since it doesn't appear in most guide books.

To put it simply: it exceeded the lofty reviews here and quelled any doubts immediately. We're a family of five (13 yo girl, 12 yo boy and 8 yo boy) and it was our kids' first real time out of the country.

We knew L&L was a little rustic, but also not the equivalent of staying in tents in the middle of nowhere. What we found were perfect amenities for a family (bathroom, kitchen, bedroom AC) but basic enough to allow us to unplug from a too-connected world.

Some great things about this place:
-Debbie and Steve (the owners) are in the dining room at breakfast and dinner, meaning they are accountable to their guests. I think most owners and managers would see this as a nuisance and a bit scary, yet Debbie and Steve seem extremely comfortable mingling with guests.

-Wifi only works at the dining hall. Yes, we can deal with telling our kids to put down a device but true pleasure is in knowing they can't ask to go on phones, an iPad, etc. We allowed them to connect at breakfast and dinner until entrees arrived and so they have 10-15 minutes to check email, status updates, kicks and other things.

-Debbie and the staff will make every arrangement for you, from transportation, to zip lining, to horseback riding to local guides for hikes. Our kids all rode their own horse for a multi-hour trek to a waterfall where we swam in the pouring rain---and loved it! Zip lining was with Mundo Adventura where guides went with our 12 and 8 year old easing any fears they had. Our local hiking guide was Donald and he was awesome! Fluent English and he knew ever animal call and could get them to answer back. We saw a sloth, monkeys, tons of birds and other animals on our hike in their natural habitat.

-Heliconia is a great family cabin with AC in the two bedrooms, a front porch with hammock chairs facing Arenal, a back porch with real hammocks facing a mini jungle with bugs, hummingbirds and even an occasional sloth sighting, full kitchen, etc.

-The open-air dining area facing Arenal is awesome with hummingbirds flying about and just a great relaxed environment.

-The meals were WAY better than I expected. The pork chop with citrus glaze, the vegetable stuffed chicken, french toast were some of my personal highlights. The eggs were fresh and delicious. Coffee was brewed table side and wines were decent. They have a five-option kids menu plus build your own pizzas. Ordering ahead (sign up by 2pm everyday for dinner) took the stress out of ordering.

-The roads in were fun but a bit bone jarring especially if you get a rental with poor shocks and struts. But we survived even the rough 9km green route in which was scenic. The red rides along hilltops with views of the volcano and valleys. Awesome and part of the fun.

Recommendations:
-Stay longer than three nights--we didn't do hot springs and some other potential activities so you can definitely entertain yourselves for longer than we stayed. We did manage zip lining one morning and the hike in the PM.
-Rent a car so you can go into La Fortuna which is a cool little tourist town.
-We did not do the spa, so I am sure couples and friends without kids who love nature and massages would enjoy it as much as we did.

I can't imagine anyone not liking this place. It has great features for families and couples. I imagine folks used to only staying in sterile megaresorts might find it too rustic, but even the beds were not awful here. We spent the next three nights at the JW Marriott in Guanacaste and I can tell you that the difference in personal attention, staff demeanor and value was a STARK difference. L&L has them beat at 1/3 of the cost.

We'll likely go somewhere else in the world next, but if my kids and wife said they wanted to go back to L&L I would definitely do it.

Room Tip: Heliconia is great for families..bedroom AC drowns out jungle and stable noises. No swimming pool bu...
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  • Stayed April 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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497 reviews from our community

Traveler rating
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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (116)
Date | Rating
  • Danish first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Washington, DC
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 9, 2013

We arrived in Liberia before noon and Debbie sent Lilly to pick us up, so no negotiating with all the drivers. The Heliconia House was perfect for the 5 of us (2 parents, 3 kids age 14, 12 &11 - one boy / 2 girls). Waiting in the fridge was fresh milk from the cows, fresh fruit juice and a few beers. The back door opens right up into the forest, you can literally touch it! We loved reading in the hammocks and hiking the trails. My city kids (Northern Virginia) loved collecting the eggs and milking the cows. I can not describe how amazing the view is from the dining area and the food, is fantastic. Be sure to take a picture! Debbie set up a private driver for our Cultour in Fortuna/EcoTermales. We used the zip line company Debbie recommended (fantastic!). We also had a driver for Baldi springs after the zip line. Debbie also arranged our transfer to Tamarindo. We loved our drivers Lilly and Martin. Debbie also arranged a private guide for Hanging Bridge Tour (we saw spider monkey's, two different eyelash vipers, my kids ate termites- voluntarily I assure you). I am not a horse person, but Debbie suggested we try a horse trip to the private waterfall, and it was definitely a highlight of our trip. My 11 year old was almost thrown off last summer, and Debbie spent an hour getting her used to the horse. We all loved it, the swim in the waterfall, and we saw a sloth climbing back up a large vine on our way back. We went on to 4 nights in Tamarindo which were great, but our only regret in Costa Rica, not staying one more night at Leaves and Lizards.

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Oshawa, Canada
Contributor
14 reviews 14 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 9 cities Reviews in 9 cities
17 helpful votes 17 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 9, 2013

This is a trip we will never stop talking about. We stayed in the Toucan cabin and it was absolutely beautiful. The food was fantastic and completely natural. To get to Leaves and Lizards you will need to rent a jeep, it's a pretty rocky road that leads into the retreat, but nothing to turn you away.

This is a great place to stay and see a large variety of sites. We stayed for a week and went to the Tabacon Hot Springs (a must!!!), the volcano, waterfalls and a whole bunch of other attractions. Ask Debbie or Steve about the boat trip they can arrange for you. It's absolutely spectacular! Monkeys, beautiful birds, it's a perfect peek into the true jungle.

Steve and Debbie are amazing. We were two women on a trip from Canada, renting a jeep, driving on rocky roads and we were a little nervous. Steve and Debbie will help you get there, help you find what you would like to see and are happy to answer any question you may have. They are fantastic.

We stayed in the Toucan cabin. It was really nice, lots of space and of course an amazing view of the volcano which errupted quite a few times while we were there. Sitting on the balcony and watching the humming birds, listening to the sounds of the jungle is an amazing experience.

I would highly recommend going on the tour around the property, it's extremely educating. There is something everywhere you go and it's usually ten times larger than where your from. The tour guides know what to look for, that you may not see on your own.

The town of Arenal is pretty nice, you can go for a relaxing massage, pick up some groceries, alchol, cigerettes, have an ice cream etc. The people in town are extremely sweet and helpful. We had a problem with our camera and despite not speaking english they tried so hard to help out, one person even took our arm to show us where to get a new camera.

An amazing cabin retreat, amazing hosts, amazing food, amazing attractions, amazing people. You will fall in love with this trip!

Room Tip: Depending on when your traveling this area is extremely humid in the rainy season. If your not accus...
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  • Stayed May 2012, traveled with friends
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
New York City, New York
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 8, 2013

My husband and I spent a fantastic three days and nights at Leaves and Lizards this past March. We couldn't have asked for a better time - and it was the perfect blend of adventure and relaxation. A highlight of our trip was the horseback riding to the waterfall - and Debbie also helped us coordinate zip lining! The food was great - the people so warm and accommodating. I hope to return sometime down the road - perhaps with friends or family! Thanks for making our time in Costa Rica so memorable!

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
twinsburg, ohio
Top Contributor
106 reviews 106 reviews
35 hotel reviews
Reviews in 42 cities Reviews in 42 cities
36 helpful votes 36 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 5, 2013

Wish that we would have spent more then 3 nights at Leaves and Lizards- the people- the food and the resort were all wonderful. Waking up to the sounds of the birds and bugs, having coffee on our beautiful huge deck, truly paradise. We stayed in Coco cabin which was closest to the dining room, made it easy to get to meals and the barn. We did the horseback ride to the waterfall- loved all the instruction with the horses before the trip (Definitely wear bug spray). Breakfast each morning was delightful- abundance of fresh fruit and coffee and fresh eggs- loved the morning shot of juice, so did the kids. We went to the coast for several days after this and really missed everything about leaves and lizards- totally a different experience!

Room Tip: They all have great views- if you are not renting a car try to stay close to dining room
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  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Los Angeles, California
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 4, 2013

This was our second stop on a three stage family trip in Costa Rica. After a few days at a pacific beach hotel and before a few days at a river lodge in a national park, we spent three glorious days at Leaves and Lizards; and what a pleasant surprise for all of us. It could not have been more different from the other two places we stayed. After driving through beautiful countryside and even the corner of a cloud forest, you go through the tiny town of Monterrey, get on a long dirt road and just when you think you must have gone the wrong way, come out at the entrance to Leaves and Lizards.

It is a small, friendly working farm with 9-10 cabins spread throughout the property. Our kids (5, 7 and 11) woke up early every morning and hiked the short distance from our cabin to the barn where they milked the cow, collected eggs and hung out with piglets, horses and those wonderful farm dogs.

The property is spread out over 3-4 hill-tops with pastures and forests in the lowlands and cabins and other buildings up above. There is a main hall on the middle hill-top that has the communal dining room. As the farm is a good drive from the nearest town, we had all our meals there and were very happy with the food. It was always fresh, interesting and made from local foods. The staff were almost all local folk who had grown up within a few miles of the farm, and they all seemed to love the owners, the farm and their jobs. The kitchen staff, the farmhands, the guides, the overseer, etc... They all were helpful, knowledgable, and fun to be around.

It was cloudy almost all the time and we were hit by a few very loud and very brief monster thunderstorms (which were a LOT of fun!) When the sky does clear, you have an amazing view of Arenal Volcano just across the valley floor. Although we were happy to spend must of our time right there on the farm, walking around the property and going on a half-day horseback ride; there are many excursions one can take. Guided hikes up the volcano, visits to the local hot springs, white water rafting, and even a day trip to some of the local farms.

The owners (Steve and Debbie) are wonderful people! They have done a great job building this special place and have clearly won the trust of the local community. We had some amazing adventures while in Costa Rica, but our boys always want to talk about their few days on the farm!

  • Stayed January 2013, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Charlotte, NC
Senior Contributor
47 reviews 47 reviews
22 hotel reviews
Reviews in 30 cities Reviews in 30 cities
22 helpful votes 22 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 3, 2013

The owners are congenial, knowledgable and very accommodating. The story of their incredible journey to CR is beyond interesting and is part of the "experience" at this beautiful mountainside property which they have lovingly nursed back to its original CR splendor. The food at L and L was delicious and incorporated ingredients from the farm on the property directly to the table. Steve arranged fantastic excursions for us to the Mundo Aventura ziplines and the Rio Frio boat experience at the Nicauraguan border, both totally worth doing! Be sure to check out Steve's fantastic artwork displayed everywhere.

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Leaves and Lizards Arenal Volcano Cabin Retreat

Address: 500 meters south of Super Kiki, La Fortuna de San Carlos, Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica
Location: Costa Rica > Province of Alajuela > Arenal Volcano National Park > La Fortuna de San Carlos
Amenities:
Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Kitchenette Restaurant Suites Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
#1 Top resorts Hotel in La Fortuna de San Carlos
#4 Family Hotel in La Fortuna de San Carlos
#4 Business Hotel in La Fortuna de San Carlos
#5 Romantic Hotel in La Fortuna de San Carlos
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
Number of rooms: 8
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
This secluded resort is located on 26 acres with spectacular viewing of the Arenal Volcano near La Fortuna. Enjoy the panoramic vista of Arenal and Cerro Chato from a hammock on your porch or from your comfortable, orthopedic, queen sized beds with Egyptian cotton sheets. Meals prepared using locally grown ingredients at the Lava Lizard on-site dining facility. Guests are invited to help with daily 'chores' on this working farm. Milk a cow, collect eggs for breakfast or groom a horse. Enjoy private horseback riding, professional guide service, on site spa and 2 km of on site nature trails. The vision at Leaves and Lizards is to create the perfect blend of adventure, discovery and tranquility for each guest. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Leaves And Lizards Arenal Volcano Cabin Retreat Hotel La Fortuna De San Carlos
Leaves And Lizards Arenal Volcano Cabin Retreat Costa Rica/Arenal Volcano National Park

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